By Gbenga Oke
CHIEF Solomon Edebiri, until recently a member of the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, and governorship aspirant, contested at the primary election and lost to Pastor Osagie Ize-Iyamu. Although he felt strongly that his former party and its leaders decided who got the ticket ahead of the primary, he maintains he has since gone on sabbatical politically.
In this interview, he bares his mind on what he has been doing since he quit politics, the Saturday election and advises the Edo masses to vote overwhelmingly for a candidate that will create wealth for the state.
After the PDP governorship primary in Edo State, nothing seems to have been heard from you. What have you been doing?
During my campaign, I told the people that I have a second address and that politics wasn’t my main occupation. So when the PDP leaders did what they did, they felt the people should not have their say and their way, I decided to go back to my profession. I believe I can always help the society in my private capacity. During the campaign, one thing was evident as we traversed the 18 local governments areas of Edo State; the 192 wards. It was clear that there was poverty in the land, there was ignorance as well. We also realized that the kind of politics that is happening is who brings what. I had thought the politics of Edo was beginning to change and godfatherism had stopped, little did I know that the situation remained the same. To me, politics is all about helping the people, it is also a way of helping the larger society to attain political power.
However, having lost out on June 20, through a calculated manipulation by a few leaders of the PDP, I resigned from the party and went on sabbatical politically, to face my business and my profession, because I realized that through my profession, I can still help the people of the state. I realized what the people need most is education, social re-integration, social re-orientation, social emancipation, and social revolution, so that we can create a level of independence in the people.
If all these things are in place, people will begin to take decisions on their own and not the decisions some took on their behalf because of N10,000, and, at the end of the day, if the money is not forthcoming, they are left in limbo. That is what is happening today in Edo. I have gone back to my profession and I am trying to see how we can affect the lives of an average Edo citizen through professionalism, to see how we can bring change to lives and also influence the quality of lives through the application of technology. And by so doing, I still hope to achieve what I intended to achieve through political power. What happened in Edo PDP during the primary is very unfortunate. You don’t create a political party because of one or two individuals which was the case in Edo PDP. It became evident during the primary that the party belonged to a few individuals and I must say this is not a limited liability company like some people have converted it to be. And that is why you have defections from PDP to the APC in the state.
Since you began the sabbatical politically, has there been overtures to you by some other parties and what role are you playing in the forthcoming election?
To be honest, I have been speaking to leaders of both parties. I have spoken to Chief Anenih. I have also spoken to the National Leader of APC, Chief John Oyegun. What I am making them to realize is that the essence of getting political power is to help the people. I have been urging the people of Edo to follow their conscience and they should let their conscience lead them right. I have also been telling people that whatever their conscience asks them to do, do it, so that they won’t grumble against themselves.
I am participating in the election; at least I have the right to vote and I will vote the candidate my conscience tells me to vote for. I am not a member of any political party at the moment, and there are about 12 contestants in this election. Out of these people, one person must be most qualified and that is part of my conscience I will follow. My followers have been coming to ask questions I tell them to follow their conscience. I have been telling people to look critically at all the candidates. They know who will bring development to Edo. They know who will run the state as a public entity. They know the candidate who will deliver dividends of democracy. They know who will take the money accrued to the state and start sharing to his loyalists. They know who will stop the era of wealth sharing and create wealth. They know who will bring corporate experience to lead Edo. That is the position I have been pushing, it does not matter which party you belong to. I am going out on September 10, to vote for the candidate who possesses all the qualities I have mentioned.
Some people have argued that the campaigns in Edo so far have been characterized by trading of words between the sitting governor and the PDP candidate. From what you have seen, do you agree with that opinion?
What has caused this development is the craze for power. And that is what happens when you believe power is a do-or-die affair. Everyone left issue-based politics while abuses and pointing of fingers at each other have taken the centre stage. That is one significant thing about my campaign ahead of the primary. We were telling the people what we could do to turn Edo around, sector by sector and not attacking anyone. We were practising issue-based politics and not individual politics.
But what we have seen today is attacks on individuals and my take on it is that people should change their style of politics. I know personality attack will be part of politics but there should be a limit to it. What should be the candidate’s priority right now is what affects the state and how it will be addressed. Calling each other names will not take us anywhere; what is important is how the quality of lives of citizens of Edo can be revitalized through the funds available to the state. My advise to them is that, in these last few days to election, they should review issues based on knowledge and let people make their choice.
After the election, will you unveil the next party you will be joining?
For now, that is not in my mind, what is in my mind right now is to see how we can help Edo people to grow, how we can help the citizens of the state, how we can re-invigorate the people, how we can grow the society that is eschewed of violence and rancour. My other plans include how we can help the youths to grow, how we can build the society, how we can re-integrate the society. What will happen after my sabbatical I don’t know. For now, I want to work with various groups in the world. I want to work with various governments within the country and outside. I want to work with the people of Edo irrespective of who is in government, all I want to see is the development of Edo people.
How do you see the division in PDP both at the national and state levels affecting the forthcoming election?
Well, people say that society grows better in an atmosphere of peace and tranquillity. My advice to the PDP is for them to resolve whatever crisis or differences they have because we are inching closer to 2018 when Nigeria will be in within election mood. So we have about two years to start preparing for the 2019 elections. If they want to win election in this country, they should put their house in order. I believe what is happening in the PDP is all about greed for power, lack of tolerance. They should sincerely come to the table and discuss the issues so that they can readily prepare for the 2019 elections.
Irrespective of who emerges Governor of Edo State after September 10, where do you think the state should be in the next four years?
I would like to see Edo being a new state in the next four years, a state where people have been re-orientated, a state where politics can be played without violence, a state where youths can come out of school and get jobs, a state where we can build a lot of independent youths, who can fend for themselves, work or not, a state where small and medium scale businesses will thrive. I want to see a state where agriculture will play a major role in its development, a state where infrastructure will be all over the state, I want to see a new state where everybody is contributing his/her quota to its development. That is the new state I want to see irrespective of who emerges governor.
The argument today in Edo is that from 1999 to 2007, there was no evidence of governance in the state. When the administration of Oshiomhole came in, some said the state developed rapidly. Do you believe the outgoing governor has put Edo on the right footing?
When I was campaigning, I said many times that Edo is not where it used to be after almost eight years of Oshiomhole. The governor has moved the state forward. We can see some level of development, we can see some evidence of creation, you can see some evidence of work being done. But I must also say that there are so many areas that have been ignored. I believe there is nowhere in the world where you build a state without building human capacity. Edo seems to lack that capacity in the last eight years, that has been ignored vividly. Human capacity has not been part of the administration. Yes, there has been infrastructural development, schools were renovated, painted and roofed but what about the human capital in the schools? What about the infrastructure the students need, the furniture, laboratory and library? Some of these things are not there. So the incoming governor has so much to do in the area of building human capacity. What I can say is that we have moved from where we were which, of course, you can give to the governor, but he was looking at the whole exercise from a singular point of view, he did not look at the state holistically. The next governor should look at it holistically and make the building of people his priority.
What is your final word to Edo people as we approach the governorship election?
I want Edo people to go out and vote, peacefully, no candidate is worth dying for, no candidate is worth shooting guns for and I believe Edo people do not need the blood of anybody to form a government. They should go out to the polls and vote their conscience. The people should realize they have conscience and they should vote it. They should not follow money to vote for anybody, they should go and vote for who their conscience tells them will develop the state. Edo needs a man who will use her resources for the people.